“Like, Share, Relive”: Exploring the mental health effects of viewing racial violence on social media for young Black adults Open Access

Banner, Ionie (Spring 2023)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/sf268657g?locale=en


Background. Social media has become a vital tool to spread awareness about racial violence toward Black people. However, studies have demonstrated the negative mental health effects exposure to police brutality has on the Black community, highlighting that Black people experience 0.14 more poor mental health days per police killing. Because of this, there is growing concern regarding the long-term impact of exposure to racial violence through social media.

Methodology. In-depth interviews with Black-identifying participants aged 18-29 in Atlanta, GA were conducted. Participants discussed how exposure to racial violence through social media impacted their social media use, mental health, and life outlook. Participants also discussed how their personal experiences altered the effects of exposure.

Results. 70% of participants (N=10) were exposed to racial violence 1-2 times a week on social media. Participants reported feeling desensitized, destabilized, terrified, and hopeless after viewing racial violence on social media. Participants’ shared identity with victims increased the videos’ impact on their mental health, increasing their concern that a negative encounter with police or civilians would make them the subject of another viral video. These effects led to decreased utilization of social media sites.

Conclusion. Results aligned with and built on current literature, showing the negative mental health effects of being exposed to racial violence on social media. This study calls for more research on the impact of vicarious racial trauma through social media and interventions to mitigate negative health effects. Social media policy solutions should be explored to reduce exposure to traumatizing content.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introduction

Introduction and Rationale

Problem Statement


Why It Matters?

Purpose Statement

Aims and Objectives

Research Questions

Theoretical Framework

Significance Statement

Definition of Terms

Chapter Two: Literature Review


Theoretical Framework

History of Racial and State Violence

Current State of Racial Violence

Civilian Violence

Racial Socialization

The Role of Media and Social Media

Media as Justification

Social Media

Black Mental Health

Current State

Race-Related Stress and Trauma

Impact of Viewing Racial Violence on Social Media

The Present Study

Chapter Three: Methods

Enrollment Methods





Demographic Data

Exposure to Racial Violence

Effects of Exposure

Race/Ethnicity Definitions

Data Collection


Contextual Data


Chapter Four: Results


Survey Results

Sample Demographics

Exposure and Effects

In-Depth Interviews

Making Sense of the Videos

Selective Engagement

Self vs The Movement

It Could Be Me

Skewed Normalcy

Double-Edged Sword


Chapter Five: Discussion


Summary of Study

Overview of Findings

Strengths and Limitations

Implications and Future Directions




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